My husband cautioned me about writing a blog post about video games. Which sounds kind of weird. They’re video games, I’m a gamer, why should it matter if I write about them? Because of articles like this, and this, and this.
Weird that so many people, gamers and developers alike, are so paranoid about women in the video game industry. As if having a vagina somehow means that I’ll either ruin games for everyone or just slather pink and social justice like frosting on a kid’s birthday cake all over the industry. Trust me, I won’t and wouldn’t even if I had the power.
Full disclosure: I never worked directly in the gaming industry. I’ve never made a game. I have worked for an advertising agency whose client was a massive AAA publisher though. I did, for over 2 years, work exclusively for that publisher to help sell their biggest titles. Not only did I do that, but my primary focus was advertising on game consoles (Xbox and PlayStation) and custom programs on gaming centric sites like Twitch. I also wrote my Master’s Thesis on if playing video games (World of Warcraft) had any positive or negative affect on romantic relationships (it didn’t in case you’re interested, it was akin to watching TV with your significant other, just a shared activity). So I like to think I know gamers, games, and gaming. But I have been told this isn’t enough. I have to play video games too. Which I do. So all my bases should be covered now, right?
Except I’m a woman. Ergo I can’t be good at games (admittedly, FPS are not my strong suit but I also get motion sick really easily in a first person view so I don’t have that going for me). Not only can’t I be good at games, I can’t actually be a gamer. I can’t really be a part of this community. Not unless I just cosplay the sexy sidekick that shows up in some games. It’s demeaning.
My male coworkers, whether they gamed or not, did not need to work nearly as hard as I did to prove I knew how a game console worked. To show that I knew the games I was marketing and could play them. I took it on the chin, just as another “perk” of working in the industry. But it was tiring. And thankless. And often left me wondering why I even bother.
Then articles like this pop up and I think “yes, this is why I did it. This is great and so needed to be said!’ And I get so proud of the women in this sexist industry for leaning in rather than leaning out. I’m inspired to do something I don’t ever do because I don’t want to engage with internet trolls: I am going to post a comment and celebrate these women!
Then I read the Facebook comments and decide “nope”.
So many people (I don’t want to say men but I think we know who I’m talking about here) were so adamant about not “forcing” diversity either by race or gender. Basically reusing the same argument over and over again “if they are qualified to work on a game then fine, but don’t make women join the industry!” They so effectively missed the point that I was floored.
No one said anything about firing a bunch of veteran workers to replace them with unskilled women just for the sake of having a woman on the team or someone of a different ethnicity. All the article and the book it was reviewing said was that there is an issue in the industry that makes women feel marginalized. That makes them work unnecessarily harder for less pay and recognition. That lets sexist behavior be “normal” in the industry. That allows the community they want to work for to tear them down and threaten them with death and sexual violence. That is the behavior that needs changing so women feel safe working in the industry. It’s about keeping talented people making quality products rather than leaning out of an industry they love because it’s gotten too dangerous, disrespectful, or soul crushing for them to remain or even go into the tech industry to begin with.
But so many gamers are terrified that if a woman joins a big studio as any position of power that suddenly their game won’t be the same anymore. That a woman will shove an agenda down their throats and make something terrible that they won’t want to play because it’s for some stereotypical little girl who likes and wants a world akin to a Lisa Frank notebook. They think girls can’t possibly want to play things like Battlefield, Call of Duty, or even Madden. It’s a gross over generalization that makes “hardcore gamers” worry about the future of the industry they love. Because they genuinely do love games and don’t want anyone to take that away from them (no one is trying to do that, for the record).
The fact of the matter is, women are half the population and a growing number of gamers. Ignoring them will cripple publishers and developers alike and that will take away the games they love much faster than having a diverse group of developers creating said game. Women just want more accurate representations in their games. Development studios like Bioware get that and you know what? They make bank and can continue making the games they love into the foreseeable future because they don’t ignore girl gamers. They don’t cater to them either. Weird right? A woman enjoying a game that a guy loves too?
And that’s the point. Encouraging an industry to be more accepting of women and other ethnicities only benefits the industry as a whole. It doesn’t break it. It doesn’t ruin it. It helps it move into a more acceptable medium, one that maybe doesn’t get attacked all the time for being ultra-violent (ahem). This medium, a medium I love and want to succeed because I love playing games, shouldn’t be a boys club. Of all things it should be more accepting because gamers were made fun of for so long as these social outcasts that lived in their parents basement (nerds, essentially). But it has had the opposite effect and because they had been marginalized, they want to make it hell for another group who wishes to “join in”. In the end, it’ll only make the gaming community stronger and isn’t that what we all want?